Death Lives In The Water – Snippet 28
Ben redid the tree, putting the two branches side by side.
“Any chance any of them married into the Molovna line?”
“I’m almost certain of it,” replied Charity. “But I guess we will find out.”
“All this talk of family trees and relations might be interesting to some of you,” said Jen. “But I’m much more interested in what if anything they wrote about something evil living in that pond. Can we please make that the primary target of our research?”
Bull Harper spoke up.
“Why did you want me and Mary here?”
“Because you’re a Harper. And you likely have the gift. And Mary is likely a Farmington, which means she has it too.”
“I’ve been sensing something ‘not right’,” said Mary, “if that is what you are talking about.”
Bull sat up. “Yeah, me too. But if you let that out, if anyone at the mill finds out, I’m toast. Seriously.”
“No worries from me,” said Arthur.
The rest assured him that this was a closed group, even with the inclusion of Ben.
“If we find that we do indeed have something ancient and evil here, and if we find out how they dealt with it,” said Charity, “then we may well need the help of anyone gifted, no matter how small their gift.”
“Now,” said Dan. “Let’s see if we can make some headway sorting these diaries. I want to see what’s here.”
First, they sorted all the documents: diaries, legal papers, journals, ledgers, and miscellany. They all agreed that those documents might help later in constructing both an accurate family tree and a timeline. Ben started going through the journals and legal papers, looking for anything in English that might assist him with the genealogy. Dan and Charity set to work on the diaries, while Jen and the others attempted to make some sort of order in the remaining paperwork. It was tedious, slow work, mostly because of the age of the paperwork. Several times, despite their caution, papers turned to dust or tore. Some had faded to the point of being unreadable. But for the most part, the diaries and larger journals were intact. Nevertheless, at Dan’s urging they began photographing everything before handling it.
The diaries were personal accounts of family history, while the journals tended to be listings of purchases and sales from the wood carving and carpentry business that Maksym, Yuri, Stephan and Mikhail ran. There were lists of lumber types and sizes, deliveries, and equipment purchases. Many of these, to the frustration of all, were undated. Nevertheless, they placed them in a neat stack to go over later.
Suddenly Dan let out a whoop.
“Jackpot!” he said. “This diary is written by Kateryna Molovna. It is dated 1802, and the first entry is:
‘We have arrived in St. Louis and will soon be traveling north along the Mississippi River to claim our new land. This river is huge. It reminds me of the Volga, which I saw only once. As soon as Maksym and Yuri have purchased a wagon and a team, we will continue onward.”
He continued reading aloud, as the others sat transfixed, caught up in the magic of the discovery of a new land. The diary told a story of journey, of peril, of discovery, and of more peril.
Dan put down the diary. He took a long drink of water and then nibbled absently at one of the huge chocolate chip cookies Maggie had brought with her.
“So,” he said thoughtfully, “they came here with all their worldly goods and a barrel of water from Ukraine. And dumped it into the pond. Me thinks they were mighty lucky that the wedding was a peaceful affair.”
“Sounds like you have some idea of what they were dealing with,” said Arthur.
“Nothing positive,” replied Dan. “But there are old folk tales, mythology, about water elementals called bolotniks.”
“You were right, Charity!” blurted Bridgette. “Stephan and the others were right, too.”
“So the others mentioned a bolotnik also?” queried Dan.
“Yes,” said Charity. “In the one diary we found that is written in English, by Stephan. I think there must be more, written by him, because he was so determined that this thing be kept in check. If they discovered anything, any way to keep it asleep or even kill it, I think he would have written about it in one of these diaries, in English, so people would find it and protect themselves.”
“I’d like to continue looking for diaries closer to the time period of this one I just read,” said Dan. “I think we need to know more about the history of this thing, or at least the people who were dealing with it.”
“I agree,” said Arthur. “For one thing, I want to know if this creature is simply a strange if vicious animal, or if we are dealing with a magical being like an elemental.”
In short order, they came upon Maria Molovna Harper’s diary. Dan again translated aloud:
“Занадто багато тварин пропали без вістіn. Too many animals are going missing.”
Dan continued the translation of Maria’s diary. It, too, told a story of something fearful residing in the area.
It was three years since she and Yuri married under the tree by the pond. Jennie, their daughter, was two years old. She and Maria were walking along the path that led from their small house toward the pool.
Early this spring Maria realized they were missing several newborn lambs. When she mentioned it to Yuri, he said it was probably coyotes and bought a dog from their neighbor to guard them. The dog was obsessed with keeping the flock away from the pond, so Yuri built a small corral and a water trough up near the house. There was a lot of water running under their land, and they had only needed to sink a well about 15 feet to get enough water to pump out daily for their needs. Jennie delighted in sitting on her mother’s lap watching the ewes and their lambs drink from the trough. The two large rams also gave in to the dog’s insistent herding and came to the trough daily.
Today’s walk had a purpose. Two days ago, their cow had given birth to a healthy young male calf. Yesterday the cow was mooing in pain with too much milk, and Mara discovered that the calf had gone missing. She milked the cow to relieve her discomfort and watched as she searched all day calling for her calf. Maria milked her again in the evening and again this morning. Now she and Jennie were searching for the calf. They heard quacking as they neared the pond.
“Ducks, Momma. Duckies.”
Jennie tried to pull away and run to the pond, but Maria held her tight. The dog was also with them, pushing them back away from the pond, whining all the time. Maria insisted that Jennie sit down with the dog. promising a treat afterward if she was a good girl. Jennie knew that treats usually meant cookies, which she dearly loved, so she sat quietly with Misha while her mother walked slowly around the pond.
Maria found hoof prints, tiny ones, leading down to the pond. As she knelt to examine them, she heard quacking, but could see no ducks. There was no trace of the bull calf nor any hoofprints leading away from the pond. She reached out to spread the bulrushes apart when she saw something swimming toward her very fast. She sprang up and ran to Jennie. Snatching her up, she ran to the house, Misha following, where she signaled the dog to bring the flock of sheep into the corral. She closed the gate tightly, told the dog to stay, and with Jennie still in her arms, she ran for her mother’s house just a quarter mile away.
Kateryna Svetlana was old. Her daughter, Maria, was born when Kateryna was nearly forty. She and Maksym had given up on having children, so Maria was a complete surprise and an utter joy. Now in her 60s, Kateryna’s hair was snow white, and her face was wrinkled and browned by long hours of work in the sun. She adored her granddaughter and lavished treats and attention on her in equal amounts.
By the time Maria and Jennie arrived on her porch, Kateryna had a plate of cookies and two glasses of icy cold milk waiting for them. Her welcoming smile turned to concern when she saw her daughter’s face.
“What is it? Has something happened to Yuri?”
“No, nothing like that. But worse, I think.”
Maria sank into the chair and took a long drink before continuing. She also plucked a cookie from the plate and took a big bite. Oatmeal, with raisins.
“There’s something in the pond,” she said. “Something evil, horrid, and dangerous.”
She described what she had seen to her mother, telling her of the loss of lambs, the disappearance of the new bull calf, and the dog’s fierce refusal to let Jennie or any of the sheep go near the pond. When she mentioned she had heard quacking, Kateryna’s face went white.
“Oh by all the Fates, I fear we have brought a bolotnik to America.”
“A what?” said Jennie.
“A bolotnik, an Old One and a dangerous one, even though not very big or terribly powerful like some of the Old Ones. But I do not know what it will do in a strange new place, where the water tastes different and the animals are different.”
She sat quietly for a while, deep in thought.
“We must tell Maksym and Yuri,” she finally said. “We must call together as many women who follow the Old Ways as we can find. Will you help in bringing them here?”